The recent win for marriage equality prompted some thoughts on a term usually reserved by behaviorists: extinction burst. Imagine a toddler, tired and whining. His parents have put him in his room to nap, but he resists, crying louder, getting out of bed – increasing the negative behaviors until he finally succumbs to exhaustion. That last surge of resistance – the extinction burst – is something researchers, parents, animal trainers and therapists have seen in countless situations.
I offer that the dissenters to the recent SCOTUS ruling are engaged in this same behavior. Forced to concede, knowing they will eventually, be out-voiced by happy couples in love, they protest all the louder.
How then to combat it? We must resist the urges to argue our point further, to shove the win down throats. Behaviorists learned long ago that ignoring unwanted behaviors decrease it more quickly and more permanently than anything that could be seen as wavering. That little boy who cries before napping? The parent who reassures, concedes that okay, just another 5 minutes to play, is increasing the likelihood 10 fold their little angel will throw another tantrum tomorrow.
Have marriage equality proponents deserved the right to celebrate? Of Course! But to those few, petty toddlers who stamp their feet and petulantly swear they will never support this law, be patient, and ignore them. I believe the nap is inevitable, the vitriol is nearly extinct.